Review: ‘Archenemy’ is not your average super hero tale.

Max Fist (Manganiello) claims to be a hero from another dimension who fell through time and space to Earth, where he has no powers. No one believes his stories except for a local teen named Hamster. Together, they take to the streets to wipe out the local drug syndicate and its vicious crime boss known as The Manager.

After hitting indie badass status with Daniel Isn’t Real, one of my top ten films of 2019, writer/director Adam Eqypt Mortimer has given us a new feast for the eyes. Enter Archenemy. If a script can keep you guessing until the very last scene that’s quality screenwriting and directing. Mortimer revamps the superhero genre. This is something that straddles the line between a classic comic book approach and an altogether fresh origin story… with a seriously kickass soundtrack. If you saw Daniel Isn’t Real, and dammit you should have by now, you’ll notice a penchant for saturated jewel tones and dark lighting…  and opening with a wormhole. With the heightened voiceovers from Skylan Brooks, you feel as if you’re watching a graphic novel playing out in real-time. Instead of using cartoony “BAM!” and “POW”, Brooks’ hyped narration does that for you. Add in some specifically stylized animation during Joe Manganiello’s dialogue, Archenemy challenges the audience to take in a larger picture and really use their brains. In my humble opinion, the character of Hamster is not-so-secretly a little slice of Adam. You get that genre fanboy brightness that makes Archenemy as cool as it is. Hamster is also a master storyteller, that’s his art. I don’t think this theory is such a stretch.

The underlying social commentary cannot be missed. Social media monsters and drugs are the newest and loudest villains ( besides this effing pandemic) around presently. All that aside, the story itself is complex in the best way possible. It builds a narrative in which you’re constantly asking questions like, “Is he who he says he is?”, “Is this a mental illness?”, “Does it even matter?!”. The answers are actually beside the point when you’ve got great acting to back up the script. Joe Manganiello is perfection in this role. Once you realize that he’s half hero half megalomaniac your mind explodes. It is in the flaws of these characters where we fall in love with them in earnest. Skylan Brooks brings this “kid in a candy store vibe” that never gets old. I cannot wait to see more of him and Zolee Griggs. She has this mature presence that makes you care for her and understand what a badass she already is.

Archenemy has all the makings of a franchise. I hope we see more of this crew! Amy Seimetz, Glenn Howerton, and Paul Sheer level up this film. Every single cast member gives a nuanced performance. It’s dark and complex and nothing like you think it’s going to be. How often do we genuinely get to say that? You can check out Archenemy today!

Stay tuned to Reel News Daily for interviews with Adam Eqypt Mortimer and Skylan Brooks by our awesome colleague Matthew Schuchman! In the meantime, you can check out the trailer below:

RLJE Films will release the action/thriller ARCHENEMY In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand December 11, 2020. 

 

Review: ‘Southpaw’

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Southpaw, definition, noun, a left-handed person, especially a boxer who leads with the right hand or a baseball pitcher.

Why did this review begin with a definition of the title?  Two reasons, first, because not everyone knows what the term means.  The second reason is the more important one; I wanted to remind the screenwriter Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”) what the term means as well.  You see a southpaw is a boxer who leads with their right hand and is usually, but not always, left handed.  This is a very important point to keep in mind while viewing this movie, because you will not see a single southpaw boxer in the entire film.  Not Jake Gyllenhaals’s Billy Hope, not Forest Whitaker’s Titus Wills, not Miguel Gomez’s Miguel Ecobar, not even any of the opponents or training partners.  Nope, you will not see a single southpaw in this entire film!

So why name this movie Southpaw?  Apparently Kurt Sutter wrote the part specifically for Eminem as a metaphor for Eminem’s custody struggles, and since Eminem is a white rapper that struggled to be accepted and a southpaw has a hard time being accepted as well.  Eminem is a lefty so it would make sense even in the context of the film.  Now they are going with the idea that the title refers to the fact that a southpaw struggles to become a good boxer and so does Billy hope, the film’s protagonist.

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The Basics: Jake Gyllenhaal plays Bill “The Great” Hope, the undisputed light heavyweight boxing champion who has never been defeated in the ring, well except for once, but that didn’t count.  He is the prototypical white boxer, a lovable dumb guy who can’t manage to survive without the help of others but is really good at taking a massive beating in the ring and pulling victory from the jaws of defeat at the hands of obviously superior boxers (sound familiar?).  Rachel McAdams plays his wife Maureen “Mo” Hope who came up through the foster system with Billy and has been by his side since they were 12 years old.  Mo is the decision making intelligent street wise brains of the family.  They have a daughter named Leila Hope played by Oona Laurence (Penny Dreadful).

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The first act is typical to a fault.  Billy wins a hard fought title defense, his wife wants to him stop boxing, his agent Jordan Mains, played by 50 Cent, wants him to sign an HBO deal, and his daughter just wants her Dad around more.  A smooth talking ranked boxer Miguel Escobar, played by Miguel Gomez, wants his shot and talks trash at a press conference.  Yadda yadda yadda, they have a show down outside of a charity fundraiser and Mo ends up getting shot and killed in scuffle.

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Billy loses his mind, puts up a pathetic performance in the ring, spirals into despair and drinking, and winds up losing his daughter to the state protective custody.  Down on his luck he goes to the gym run by the only trainer that ever helped a boxer beat him, Forest Whitaker’s Titus “Tick” Wills.  They have a hard time trusting each other, a random kids dies, they bond, the movie goes on.  If all of this sounds cliché, congratulations, you have seen a boxing movie before.  I won’t spoil the rest for you, but it plays out exactly how you expect it to.

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Conclusion:  Here’s the deal, Southpaw isn’t a bad movie (besides the lack of a southpaw which I find reprehensible).  It is just an average boxing movie.  If you have seen a few of them, then you have seen every cliché that gets checked off of the list in this movie.  It felt very Rocky III the whole time to me.  This is all the more shameful because of the solid performances given by the cast.  Gyllenhaal plays the punchy stupid white boxer (hello again Rocky) in an actually nuanced and method way.  Oona Laurence is absolutely brilliant as she bounces between love and hate of her father.  Forest Whitaker is Forest Whitaker.  Even 50 Cent turns in a great performance.

These great performances are over shadowed by a badly titled, poorly written, and ultimately color by number boxing film.  There are so many missed opportunities, plot holes, and dangling ends that it boggles the mind as to why they didn’t pursue any of those paths that might have made this movie unique in some way.

Boxing Genre Score:  2.75/5 – hits all the right notes, but is playing from a tired piece of music.

Mainstream Audience Score: 3.5/5 – if you haven’t seen the Rocky series or many other boxing movies it’s a good character drama with great performances

After Credit Scene?

None

Trailer: